A/N: I didn't even know what an AU was until authors like Sarah, Elle, and Maya wrote ones that took me on the most incredible journeys. And out of that, this idea was born. Thank you so much to my usual team, Heather, Steph, and Blue, and to my new additions who have blessed me with their input, Nathalie and Sarah. I hope this brings as much joy to the readers as it does to the author. PLEASE take a moment to leave a review. They mean so much to me.
Chapter 1 - The Redhead
Harvey is shaving when he hears his phone go off on the nightstand. He assumes it's Mike texting him the details for tonight. It is his last night in town before he heads to Spring Training in Tampa for the start of yet another season.
Harvey loves his career. Baseball has been a passion he inherited from his father at a young age, and he knows that being a pro is a blessing. But it's also a grind. And that grind is just about to get underway. Again.
He had been drafted by the Yankees out of Harvard when he was 21. He had always been smart, but some of life's hard lessons taught him that being smart wasn't always enough. You need to be tough and driven. And he is both. After three seasons of working his way through the minors, and another five as a middle reliever, he had become the Closer for the New York Yankees last season. And this year, he had his mindset on being the best damn closer the city has ever seen.
Harvey grabs a towel and dries his face as he walks over to check Mike's text.
Shithead - Carlyle Hotel. Belemans. 9:00
Harvey chuckles and responds.
Douchebag - At least it's close. You're buying.
You're cheap. You're a goddamn millionaire.
And I plan to stay that way.
Harvey throws the phone on the bed.
Mike was Harvey's roommate at Harvard freshman year. They were best friends within the first month and have remained close ever since. In fact, Mike is also Harvey's sports agent.
Going out in public could be a real pain in the ass for any professional athlete, but for a Yankee going out in Manhattan, it was a nightmare. But Harvey had promised Mike he would go and he was leaving for six weeks in the morning, so he'd just have to deal. Plus, they were celebrating Mike and Rachel's engagement, and he really liked Rachel. She was way prettier than Mike.
After deciding on a cream sweater and black slacks, Harvey meets his driver Ray in front of his building and heads out to meet Mike.
Donna had been working 60 hour weeks preparing for her next production as Roxie Hart in the Broadway production of Chicago. She had been on Broadway for 5 years now, but this will be her first lead role and it may be the death of her.
What she should be doing tonight is sleeping, but instead she's changed her outfit three times and is running very late.
"I know, Rach. I know." She calls across the room to her best friend who is currently on speakerphone and waiting out front with a cab. "I'll be down in two minutes. I swear."
Donna decides the dark red, tight-fitting dress is the winner because her time is up.
She promised Rachel she would go out with her tonight to celebrate her engagement to Mike. Why was it that every one of her friends was either gay or in a serious relationship? She seemed to be the only almost 30-year-old who was destined to live her life alone.
Mike was the cutest damn thing Donna had ever laid eyes on and she knew the minute she met him that he was the perfect match for Rachel. Donna had met Rachel at Yale where they both studied the arts. Donna theater. Rachel design. She had made quite a name for herself in the city already and she was only 27.
Rachel had played hard to get with Mike for almost a year. Donna knew it was because she had been leery of the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous - hotshot sports agent at first, but Mike was the most genuine and down to earth guy in the world. It was those cocky, idiotic athletes he represented that you had to watch out for.
How anyone could get paid millions of dollars to play a stupid game was beyond her!
Ray drops Harvey off in the back of the hotel where Mike is waiting by the employee entrance. It's not like he couldn't come in the front, but he'd either spend the next hour signing autographs or looking like an asshole for not signing them.
"Hey." Mike greets Harvey with a handshake and a one-armed hug.
"Hey." Harvey pats him on the back. "Where's Rachel?"
"Running late. She picked up a friend."
Mike keeps walking but Harvey stops. "A friend? C'mon Mike, we've talked about this. No trying to set me up."
Mike turns back toward Harvey and laughs out loud. "Set you up?" Mike shakes his and puts his finger to his chin. "Let me see if I can put this in terms a jock like you can understand." He pauses for a second, pretending to think. "She's way out of your league." Mike laughs again and turns away before Harvey can see the playful look in his eyes.
Harvey follows him with a scowl.
They enter the upscale piano bar where the lighting is just dim enough to reduce the chance of Harvey being recognized. Mike had reserved a booth in the back corner that provided bottle service. The two men start on an expensive bottle of scotch and talk baseball while they waited on the women to arrive.
About 30 minutes later Mike's phone buzzes on the table.
"They're here." Mike looks out over the crowded bar to see if he can spot them.
Before Harvey sees Rachel, his breath catches in his throat as a drop-dead gorgeous redhead looks directly at him and smiles. She raises up her hand and waves and as if he's in some kind of trance his hand starts to lift from the table. Then he hears her call out.
Harvey drops his hand to his side and wipes the stupid grin off his face before anyone notices. What the hell had gotten into him? He doesn't wave.
He slides out of the booth to greet Rachel.
"Hello, Gorgeous," he turns on the charm and gets a toothy smile in return.
"Harvey? Is that you? When did you become charming?" She giggles and pecks him on the cheek.
"Donna, this is Harvey-"
"Specter," he finishes her sentence and takes Donna's hand. "Harvey Specter." He flashes her his best smile and fights the urge to kiss her hand and bow like some kind of knight on Game of Thrones.
"Donna Paulsen." She smiles again, this time actually at him, and his breath catches again.
Donna gives Mike a squeeze and kiss on the cheek before the four of them sit back down.
Harvey picks up Rachel's glass and pours her some of the sparkling wine Mike had waiting on ice for her, but when he picks up Donna's she stops him.
"I'll have the scotch as well." She picks up the bottle and pours her own. "If you don't mind sharing." She smirks over her glass.
Harvey just clears his throat and looks over at Mike.
Mike mouths, out of your league, and then sips from his own glass with a quiet laugh.
The conversation is easy between the four of them. Mostly focused on Mike and Rachel's plans for their upcoming engagement party, and any early wedding plans they had in mind.
Harvey's had enough of this topic and decides he'd rather hear from the redhead sitting across from him.
"So, Donna, what do you do for a living?"
"I'm an actress," she responds, shifting her attention to Harvey.
"Really? Would I have seen you in anything?" he asks genuinely intrigued.
"That depends. How often do you go to the theater?" Donna smiles and her entire face lights up. Harvey almost shields his eyes.
"Harvey? The theater? That's hilarious." Mike chuckles as he fills their glasses. "Harvey's more of a sports guy, Donna."
Harvey gives Mike an irritated glare. "I've been to the theater!" he scoffs. "In fact, I saw Ain't too Proud on Broadway last year with my dad."
"And from what I remember you went kicking and screaming like an unruly toddler." Mike laughs and Rachel gives him a disapproving look.
"What? It's true?" He shrugs.
Mike and Rachel head out to the dance floor and Harvey and Donna are left to talk without interruption.
Harvey is starting to wonder why he agreed to this evening when Donna reaches for his hand on the table.
His body responds to her touch like a wick to a flame. A buzzing sensation runs right up his arm and sends blood to his groin.
"What do you do, Harvey. Are you a contract lawyer like Mike?"
It takes a moment for Donna's words to sink in. And when they do, Harvey frowns. It had never occurred to him that this woman might not know who he was. And for some reason, the fact irked him.
"A lawyer? No." He shakes his head. "Although I did go to Harvard." Why the fuck had he felt the need to say that?
"Impressive," she said raising her eyebrows, but there was humor in her voice. She thought about mentioning Yale but figured she'd let him finish.
"I play baseball," he says flatly. Furrowing his brow at how simple it sounds all of a sudden. "For the Yankees."
"Oh, thank God." Donna sighs.
When Harvey squints his eye, she elaborates.
"I don't know about you, but I've been a little concerned all night that this," she gestures between the two of them, "was some kind of blind date the two of them had tricked us into."
"And now?" Harvey asks trying not to take her comment personally.
"And now, I know it's not." She shrugs. "Rachel knows I would never date a professional athlete."
The expression on Donna's face is one of complete contentment. Like she has no idea that such a comment might be offensive to a professional athlete.
Harvey immediately straightens his spine. But rather than lash out he plays it cool.
"Seems a little small-minded for a Yale grad?"
Donna is surprised by both his candor and his insight. It shows on her face.
"Mike told me you met Rachel there," he states as he sips on his scotch. "Please. Educate me on the pitfalls of professional athletes." Harvey's tone is tad challenging.
"Well, for starters, they make way too much money."
"Big problem." He smirks. "Go on."
"I don't know, they travel all the time, they're obsessed with a game, they sleep around."
Harvey chuckles out loud at that one. "Do they now?" he says in a deep tone leaning forward and raising his eyebrows.
He reaches for Donna's hand and says, "What about actors?" He leans in closer and whispers, "At least I don't spend my life pretending to be someone else."
"Uh!" Donna gasps and pulls her hand from his. "That was rude."
"Make sure you add that to your list." He responds sitting back.
Harvey feels... irritated. He shouldn't be concerned in the least about what this redhead thinks of him. He could have any girl he wants, at any time.
He glances at her out of the corner of his eye. Well, apparently not any girl.
He's determined, all of a sudden, to prove her wrong. To change her mind about athletes. About him.
It's just to prove a point. It doesn't mean anything.
"Let's dance," he says, grabbing her arm and yanking her from the booth.
She goes. Not because she wants to dance with him, but because she loves to dance.
The grand piano was stunning and so was the musician playing it. Harvey held out his hand and Donna accepted. Already a bit surprised at his willingness to dance to this music.
He places a hand on her hip, as he holds hers with the other. They begin to sway gracefully.
"He's seventy-three," Harvey says.
"Who?" Donna looks around.
"The pianist. His name is Earl. He's been playing here for twenty-five years."
"You know him?" She tries not to sound impressed, but she is.
"My father is a musician. Earl's been around New York forever, so they've crossed paths."
Harvey gives Donna a little twirl. And she yelps as she bumps into his chest.
"Plus, he's a big Yankee fan." He grins. "Luckily not everyone shares your opinion on athletes."
Donna is so caught off guard by this entire scenario. The dancing. The conversation. That damn smile. For a moment she wonders absently when her feet stopped touching the ground.
"I play," Donna says, surprising herself. She's not sure why she's sharing that with this man she just met.
Harvey leans back a bit to look at her.
His smile makes her feel like a schoolgirl and she looks away.
"Well, then you have to meet Earl. Come on," he says as he leads her over to the piano player.
Earl winks at her sweetly when she walks up with Harvey. As soon as he finishes the song he reaches for Harvey's hand.
"Harvey, my boy. It's about time you bring a pretty young lady in here instead of the old guy you're always hanging out with."
Harvey lets out a belly laugh as he drops Earl's hand. "I'll tell my dad you said hello." Harvey turns to Donna.
"This is Donna. Donna, Earl Rose."
"What a pleasure to meet you. You play so beautifully." Donna wraps his fragile hand with both of hers.
"The pleasure is all mine."
"Donna plays," Harvey interjects with a bit more enthusiasm than he intended.
"Well, is that so?" Earl pats the bench beside him, inviting Donna to join him.
Donna tries to refuse but neither man will have it and rather than make a scene, she sits down.
The two have a quiet conversation before Donna lays her slender fingers on the keys beside Earl's. The two play together as if they'd been doing so for ages and Harvey can't help but be impressed. He's never been one to impress easily, but something about this redhead has him shaking his head in awe.
Donna starts to sing softly with the melody. Not loud enough for anyone but he and Earl to hear and maybe more of a hum than actual singing, but he can tell she has a beautiful voice nonetheless. He watches her intently as her fingers move effortlessly across the keys as she leans into her partner and smiles.
In complete contrast to his usual stoic appearance, Harvey's face breaks into a smile right along with hers, and somewhere deep in his gut, he feels what one could only describe as a flutter. It wasn't uncomfortable, or painful in any way, but it unsettles Harvey more than any injury or illness ever had.
Determined to prove to himself that it was nothing, he wipes the smile from his face and clears his throat.
"I'm just going to grab us another drink," he says to no one in particular and walks to the bar. He scowls to himself as he ponders his behavior. What was it about her that was affecting him so much? She wasn't even his type. He scratches at the back of his neck as he waits for their drinks. Just because you turned thirty last month doesn't mean you have to lose your damn mind, Specter.
By the time Harvey gets back to the piano, Donna is thanking Earl and getting up.
"What a pleasure to meet such a fine gentleman," she says as she gives him a kiss on the cheek. "And what an honor to play by your side."
Harvey feels a pang of jealousy at her affection toward his old friend and curses himself for it immediately.
When Donna turns back toward him he lays on the charm and hands her the drink with his signature grin right on point.
"You were fabulous."
Donna's not sure if it's the smile or the compliment but she suddenly feels a little weak in the knees. But she's an actress, of course, and she plays it off perfectly.
"The sign of a true professional is to make those around you look better. And Earl is a true professional." Her smile is radiant and Harvey's grip tightens on his glass when the flutter returns.
They make their way back to the table and rejoin Rachel and Mike. The focus returns to their engagement and upcoming plans. The conversation flows easily between the four of them and before anyone realizes it, it gets late.
"Well, Harvey, as your agent I think it's my job to remind you that you have work tomorrow. I think we better call it a night." Mike raises his hand for the check and their waitress brings it over.
"Let me get this, Mike." Harvey grabs the check. "We came out to celebrate the two of you and seeing as I can't make the engagement party, it's the least I can do."
Something about the way he grabs the check and pulls his card from his wallet causes Donna's hormones to buzz. It's completely unlike her to be turned on by money or stature, but confidence? Confidence is sexy as hell, and Harvey has it in spades. She also acknowledges internally that she's disappointed he won't be at the party.
"Donna, you want to share a cab with Mike and me?" Rachel offers as they head outside.
"That's okay, Rach," she says with a quick squeeze. "I'll get my own."
"I could have Ray give you a ride if you'd like." The words are out of his mouth before he can shove them back in. The three others fall silent and look at him. Mike's eyebrows visibly raised.
What was he thinking? He's not on a god damn date with this woman! He never offers girls rides with Ray unless he's taking them home. To his place. And he certainly wasn't expecting that to happen. Not that he's opposed to the idea…
"Ray?" Donna cuts through his thoughts.
"His driver," Mike responds smirking at Harvey.
"Driver?" Donna doesn't hide the amusement in her tone.
"He's a friend." Harvey feels defensive all of a sudden. "Who… drives me around."
The other three laugh out loud and Harvey waves it off.
"You know with friends like you three, who needs enemies?" He keeps his tone serious but the humor in his eyes gives him away.
Donna lays her hand on his arm and smiles. The contact causing Harvey's earlier butterflies to return with a vengeance.
"It's okay, Harvey. Lots of people have personal drivers. I've just never actually met any of them." She laughs so hard that she accidentally snorts and that gets everyone laughing, including Harvey.
The cab that Mike hailed pulls up to the curb.
"You're sure Donna? You don't want to hop in with us?" Mike double checks, as Rachel climbs in.
"I'm sure, Mike. Good night."
"Good night." He smiles softly. "Harv- thanks again for tonight. I'll be down in a couple of weeks to check up on you." He reaches for his friend's hand and gives it a firm shake.
As the cab pulls away, a couple of young girls, maybe late teens, approach the two of them excitedly.
"OH MY GOD IT IS YOU!" one of the girls sequels.
Harvey's spine straightens. He appreciates his fans. He really does. But sometimes he wishes he could just be normal.
"We are so sorry to bother you, but could we get a quick photo? Our friends are going to die!" The other girl pleads, looking back and forth between Harvey and Donna.
"I'm sorry," he leans down and whispers in Donna's ear. "This happens all the time."
Just as he's about to smile and say yes, one of the girls hands him her phone. "Do you mind?" she asks, as she and her friend flank Donna while they giggle and jump up and down.
Harvey is literally dumbstruck when the reality sets in. He wasn't the celebrity they were after. Donna was.
He doesn't say a word. He snaps a few photos and returns the camera.
As the girls walk away he shoves his hands in his pockets.
Donna tries hard to stifle a laugh by coughing into her hand. His ego took a hit on that one. Despite the urge to laugh, she actually feels a little bad about it. So she doesn't comment.
"Is, Ray is it, nearby?"
"Actually, I texted him earlier to head home. I was planning to walk. It's not too far."
"So, when you offered-."
"I was going to call him back. If you'd said yes, I mean." Harvey's smile is so sheepish. And with his hands still stuffed in his pockets, Donna gets a flash of him as a young boy. Her heart swells.
"Which way are you headed? Maybe we could walk together for a while." Donna matches his shy smile with one of her own. Internally cursing herself for the suggestion.
"Towards Upper Manhattan. You?" he replies.
"Same direction," she lies as she hooks her arm in his.
Harvey's heart hammers in his chest as they start walking down Madison Avenue. All night long she has had him off his game. He doesn't consider himself a player, by any means, I mean not compared to Tanner or some of the other guys, but he definitely knew how to get what he wanted from a woman. Without ever giving much in return. He knew how to remain in control. So, why had he felt all night like a passenger on this redhead's ride?
"I really am a big deal," Harvey jokes, breaking the silence. "I swear."
Donna laughs loudly and squeezes his arm with both hands. The taut bicep she feels underneath his coat causing an immediate stir in her belly.
They take a left on 80th so they can walk along Central Park.
"So, Mike mentioned work tomorrow. Do you have a game?" She looks up at him curiously.
"A game?" He smiles. It's actually nice to spend time with someone so removed from baseball. "No. I leave for spring training in the morning." He looks ahead to the park and wonders why the reality of that makes him sad all of a sudden. He'd been looking forward to it.
"What's spring training?" Donna feels a bite from the cold and she tucks her arm a little tighter around his.
"Pre-season workouts and exhibition games," he answers, trying not let the testosterone she just awoke in him show in his tone. "Six weeks in Tampa."
Donna's hands go slack on his arm and she stops walking. Harvey takes one more step and turns back.
She didn't mean to react. She hadn't meant to let go or stop. It just happened. Donna quickly pulls herself together and continues walking. But she doesn't touch him any longer.
Confused by her reaction Harvey clenches his jaw as the two walk in silence along the park.
"That's why you won't make the engagement party," Donna surmises and breaks the tense silence. She's furious with herself for responding in such an obvious manner. It was so unlike her. What was it about this man?
"Exactly," Harvey sighs. "I'll be back in mid-March. That's when the real season starts," he answers solemnly. Why does he feel like he'd done something wrong?
Donna just nods. The cold breeze is making her eyes water.
"It's getting late," she says as they come up to the north end of the park. Knowing that he's leaving tomorrow compounded with her promise to herself never to date an athlete, has ignited her flight reflex.
"I should really get home."
Harvey's shoulders drop. I guess that's that.
A cab pulls up next to them as soon as Donna hails it. She turns and leans in for a peck on his cheek. Her lips soft and wet on his structured jaw. "It was nice meeting you, Harvey Specter," she whispers in his ear sending chills down his spine.
He wants so badly to ask for her number but his usual confidence has evaporated. Instead, he opens the door for her and simply asks, "Where are you headed?"
"So-Ho," she tells the driver.
Harvey shuts the door and scratches his neck in confusion as the taillights disappear in the distance.
Same direction my ass.